SNP must resist temptation and stick to House of Lords’ boycott

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Westminster MPs voted against the Assisted Dying Bill for England and Wales today. The Scottish Parliament rejected a similar move last May.

Commentary by Derek Bateman

Iain Macwhirter has been up to his old tricks – applying logic to politics. This will never do. What where might that lead – to honest politicians, public funding of parties, fair taxation and even people admitting mistakes? It doesn’t bear thinking about. There would hardly be any need for mad bloggers like me or media commentators like himself. No, he’s gone too far this time.

Iain Macwhirter - guilty of applying logic to politics ?
Iain Macwhirter – guilty of applying logic to politics ?

He suggests the SNP should jettison their boycott of the House of Lords and get stuck in to the Brit establishment at its very heart. He wants Baron Salmond of Linlithgow and Baroness Black of Renfrew sitting on the red benches pointing out the eccentricities of the Ruritanian chamber and challenging legislation. Stop playing only half the game, he urges. You’re either in Westminster or you’re not. If you want to block EVEL or amend it, you can do that in the Lords. And it’s entirely logical. But then so is abandoning a second referendum for 30 years…

No, the trouble with this idea is that it IS logical. Yet so much of politics simply ain’t. You can argue ‘til your blue in the face that using the whole platform of British democracy makes sense but you’ll never convince the mass of support which has it tattooed on their backside that some things are untouchable – contaminated beyond redemption.

It would make the Nats a laughing stock at the heart of the establishment if they buckled on an ermine robe and bowed to the Woolsack, adopting daft names for themselves. They’d open themselves up to an endless pantomime of ridicule even from the very same people and parties who populate the country’s biggest subsidised Care Home. Remember how much of the media failed to take the SNP or the Scots seriously during the indyref and resorted instead to cartoon clichés of Rab C neds and deep fried Mars Bars because ignorance finds an easy escape in ridicule and denigration rather than enlightenment. The laughter that would greet some Monarch of the Glen Nationalist bending the knee in the embodiment of privilege and unearned entitlement would echo round the world. It would never die down. The SNP would stand for something – until it didn’t. It would oppose something – until it could join it. What a sell-out.

The difference is that the public understands the concept of the elected Commons and it works and why the SNP needs to be there. There is already widespread unease at the casual adoption of the British monarchy for an independent Scotland with many determined it will be an early domestic referendum issue after indy. And they simply don’t grasp the concept of the Lords other than as a rest home for donors and failures.

Sturgeon and Salmond: unlikely to join the House of Lords
Sturgeon and Salmond: unlikely to join the House of Lords

Anyway how much influence would they really have if they humiliated themselves with 20 SNP Lairds in a house of nearly 900? How long would it take for a powerbase to emerge? Do we really suppose jaded Labour stooges – ex-MPs who hate the Nats to a man – would create a Progressive Front in the Other Place? (If that isn’t a contradiction in terms…)

And, if it’s right to apply logic, let’s do so. Who benefits from making second-class citizens of Scottish MPs? Who benefits when human rights are reduced or devolution fails to meet Scotland’s expectation? Indeed, who wins if the Tories win every single vote and both the Lords and Labour are seen to be useless box-tickers of anti-Scottish aspirations? Clearly the SNP benefits every time. Realisation hardens that this state isn’t in our interests and uses undemocratic means to reject our aspirations. On the other hand, if the system operates neatly and delivers for the majority of Scots, the demand for change declines.

The antiquated Lords is the epitome of the British state Nationalists want to leave. Joining it, even on a platform of ultimate abolition, helps defeat the case for independence. The SNP really would be assimilating into a governing system they oppose. There is only so much footsy we’re prepared to play with those whose contempt for us is their defining characteristic. The Nos have it…